New Year Lookout!

Happy New Year, everyone! I’ve really been enjoying reading all the “looking back” posts by sewing bloggers. I’ve never done this before but it brings so much perspective so I decided to jump in on the fun! I’m pretty shocked at how much I actually made because I consider myself a slow sewist–intentionally so, because I like really taking my time to refine patterns. There was a lot that didn’t get blogged about, either.

2012 was a pretty topsy-turvy year, full of many changes. A not so small one included us living in a rental most of the year while we did some renovations to our beloved arts and crafts home. There’s a whole story there, but the major bonus of this rental was the space–for the first time in my life I had a sewing room! I’ve been sewing since I was a teenager and always wanted a space just for that, to come in and out of as I please without having to haul machines back and forth out of closets, cut on the floor, etc. Derek always reminds me that sewing is a tool-heavy craft. I didn’t even have room for an ironing board in our house, and I’ve been collecting sewing paraphernalia for twenty years!

My top faves:

Persian lamb coat with leather trim (Burda December 2011, #114)

persian lamb coat with leather

My first big project of the year was tackling a leather and fur coat. I had so much fun making this and trying new techniques, and it has to be my favorite handmade garment so far–it turned out so perfectly, is so me, and I’ve worn it quite a bit.

Satin PJs (Burda November 2009, #129 and #132)

Burda satin PJs

This was my second pair of handmade pjs and I’ve worn both sets to pieces (I think I probably need a little more variety!). Little did I know, lingerie would start to become a bit of an obsession…

Scallop shorts & Mariner bodysuit (Pattern Runway, tutorial at Daughter Fish)

Sweet Shorts & Bodysuit

I got wise this year and started in on my summer project ideas in early spring. I intended to make several more pair of shorts but as you’re about to see, things took a much different turn! I’m including these in my faves because I was pretty proud of the fit I got on these (it took 3 muslins, but I haven’t gotten this far on pants yet!).

Peasant top and skirt (1970s Simplicity 7892 and self-drafted skirt)

peasant blouse & skirt

Award for most-worn-thing-I-made-ever goes to this butterscotch yellow top. I’m still wearing it this week! I’m a little surprised because yellow isn’t normally my color–is actually the furthest thing from my color–but it somehow goes with everything and reminds me I need some more easy blouses. This whole outfit was a knockoff of a Salvadore Ferragamo runway look.

Sewaholic Cambie Dress

cambie dress

I really wanted to try my hand at pattern-testing so I eagerly signed up for Tasia’s Cambie dress. I made actually made two but this one was my favorite. Despite the fact that this dress isn’t my usual style, this was one of my favorite makes this year. I love how her patterns fit me and I intend to use this dress as a block for some other designs. And this won’t be the last time I sew with a cotton/silk voile. It was heaven to work with and so perfect in our climate.

From about May onwards, I went lingerie-crazy. I knew that I had found something of my sewing “calling” in lingerie, and decided to start developing some of my own patterns, including my first, the Rosy Ladyshorts. I’ve now collected quite the library of books on bra-making, drafted about 15 different bra and underwear blocks, and have been experimenting a lot with concepts in grading (read: math) especially for stretch fabrics. I really look forward to making more patterns and maybe even some custom bras for friends!

lilac lace brapurple-silk-longline-braPeach Lace Bra detailbra with scallops in bridgegrey-lace-ladyshortsfoam cup bra with dyed elastic

One thing that’s been hilariously consistent is my inconsistency as a blogger. That’s about to change and real fast! The lingerie-fest continues as I kick off the bra-making sew-along next week. I’m really excited for the New Year!

I hope y’all have a happy, imaginative and creative 2013!

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Lingerie Friday: Lilac Lace

This has been a relatively quiet Christmas season in our house, all the better because January is going to be a very full month. I’ve been spending the last week or so finishing up some creative projects so my brain and sewing area is clear for the coming new year! For today’s Lingerie Friday I thought it’d be fun to share one of my latest sets with a bra based on one of the patterns I’m using in the sew-along.

lilac lace bra

I love the hunt for nice laces and good elastic. Some of my favorite lingerie notions have come from the remotest corners of the internet–usually not a well-designed web 2.0 shop that blings “Lingerie Supplies”! I’m a ninja googler. Still, it’s always nice to find something locally, and I did on a recent adventure to Texstyles, a newish fabric store in South Austin. It’s a tiny blink-and-you’ll-miss-it storefront simply labeled “FABRIC” with a screenprinted banner. Next to a breakfast taco van–a pretty good sign, as just about everything great in Austin is within reach of a breakfast taco. (It’s all about the salsa!)

Texstyles might be teeny and obtuse but it’s crammed with apparel fabrics–silks, knits, wools, a little bit of everything. And there there were all the baskets of elastic and lace trims in the window. I was encouraged to “just dump them out and find what you need and if you don’t, write it down and I’ll find it for you!” I like that kind of thinking, sort of like having a personal shopper for the L.A. downtown fabric district, which is where they visit monthly for their stock. Among all the reasonably priced baskets of elasticated goods I found a few bra trims and this delicate and very soft lilac stretch lace fabric.

The lace was perfect for a pair of ladyshorts and some other knickers but I also wanted to see if it could turn into a pretty bra as well.

lilac lace set

The undies are a new pattern I’ve drafted. I’ve fallen a little in love with high-waisted knickers with panel designs, and I wanted this one to be entirely seamless except for the panel. I still have some pattern tweaks to work out and I’m not so hot about that big picot elastic, a little too frou for my taste, but it was a good trial run.

lilac-bra-display

lilac-bra-form2

When I first made the Pin-up Girls pattern, it was hard to see past the plain and what I thought was old-fashioned look of the bra on the envelope. But I’ve found it’s incredibly easy to alter the pattern to something closer to my style or a more contemporary aesthetic. I’ve made several bras using the Pin-up pattern more or less as a block–many of which I haven’t blogged about. In my experience most important part of any bra pattern starts with the fit of the bra band, underwire and cradle. The cup style is pretty easy to modify. On this bra I made a pretty basic change by widening the strap placement and changing the cups’ side shaping for more underarm coverage. On me, the result looks closer to the demi bras I am used to wearing.

There are a lot of different ways to finish off the top of a cup and you can see on this one there is no trim or scalloped edge, but a clean finish to the edge. The cup is fully lined in sheer tricot for stability and to keep that edge from stretching out, I stitched in some narrow clear elastic to the seam allowance. It’s very invisible and feels really soft when I’m wearing it.

As you can probably tell from my previous lingerie posts, I’m always looking for fun ways to shoot lingerie. When I lay them flat on a surface, it’s hard to see details and tell what kind of form they have. When they’re hanging against a backlight, you can revel in the light and sheer. On my booty mannequin, you get a feeling for how they take shape. (Not that I have this shape, and I prefer to save these secrets for my man, but it’s close enough!)

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend and Christmas. We’re off to the *shudder with cold* midwest to visit my family!

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Bramaking Sew-Along Prep: Materials and Supplies

Howdy everybody! Today let’s talk a bit about different materials you’ll need for your bra. There’s still over a month before the sew-along, so this will give you time to gather most of what you need.

I’ve included a basic material checklist at the bottom, but some of you will probably enjoy buying a bramaking kit, which makes it simpler to collect most of the little notions. Not all bra kits are the same, however, so do read the bit about kits below, and make sure to compare them to your pattern’s requirements.

When shopping, it’s important to locate your correct underwire size. If this is your first bra, I highly recommend buying underwires in the size you think you are and then one size up and one size down. Just 1/4″ could make a massive difference in comfort. You might be surprised by what ends up being comfortable. (And yes, I was wearing the wrong size underwire for many years so I can testify.)

What you choose for your bra fabric depends on your experience, and what kind of support you need or want. Those of you with experience in bramaking or who have a different pattern than the ones I chose may want to branch out and try some new fabrics or techniques.

FOR THE CUPS AND CRADLE

The patterns we are making require some kind of stable cup fabric that does not stretch. If you want to use a stretch lace, lycra, or anything with spandex, you’ll have to either line or interface the cup in some way. The bridge will always need to be lined or interfaced, unless you are using a very stable fabric.

Traditional bra fabrics: Duoplex, Simplex, bonded or fused tricot. Of these, (I personally like Simplex, which has a nice drape and is very soft on the skin.) These are all satin-y tricot/raschel fabrics and are easy to sew.

Natural fibers: Woven cottons or silk satin like a charmeuse–a beautiful bra fabric. Keep in mind that woven cottons don’t tend to be t-shirt-friendly (fabrics stick to it) and sometimes the seams won’t lay as smoothly. I love silk bras and I take good care of them, but they are not sweat-stain-friendly (living in Texas, ask how I know!).

Lace: A rigid lace made for lingerie is perfect as a cup fabric. Lingerie stretch laces are another option and usually more widely available. Sewing stretch laces do require a little bit of experience in fitting. They will also need a stable lining as I mentioned above. Some of you may want to experiment with using lace or some kind of decorative mesh on the outside of your cups or cradle. There are many different ways to use it. For some inspiration, check out some of the bras by Sigrid, Katherine and Novita–some of my favorite bra-making bloggers who have used lace so beautifully. I will demonstrate one way during the sew-along to give you some ideas.

For linings: 15 denier tricot or 40 denier tricot. In some places these fabrics are simply called “tricot” or net. These are very useful fabrics to have around in bramaking. The 15 is very sheer and stretches just a little. The 40 is more opaque. Some of the kits will include a bit of this for lining. I like to stash some in neutral colors because I use it everywhere. It is very useful as a stable lining for the bridge and cradle area (and almost all my RTW bras use it for this). Some bramakers like to use powernet for lining. I don’t have a lot of experience with this, so perhaps someone can chime in about it!

Instead of lining, you could also stabilize a fabric with fusible tricot interfacing, often used for knits. Look for something that can be fused at a cooler setting on your iron.

l to r: 40 denier tricot, 15 denier tricot, fusible interfacing

FOR THE BAND/WINGS

Ideally, your band should use a fabric with about 50% stretch and good rebound.

Powermesh/powernet: Powermesh comes in many weights and qualities. Some women will need a heavier weight powermesh. I like medium weights if I can find them. They are soft and drape well but strong enough. Very lightweight powermeshes are useful as a lining for stretchier band fabrics but are really only good for the lightest of bras or even knickers. (The ladyshorts photo in my sidebar is made from a lightweight printed powermesh.)

(l to r: heavy, med, lightweight powermesh)

Lycra: These can be good band fabrics but check the descriptions as some lycras may be too lightweight or too stretchy for you. You’ll have more options in color choices, which is probably why folks making bras tend to use lycra instead of powernet.

For now, try to avoid using jersey as your band fabric. This is something you might want to try later but jerseys often get narrower as they are stretched and are quick to lose their elasticity. If you have allergies or need/want a natural fiber bra, you can try making a band from woven materials, but you will have to experiment with the pattern’s band length to find a comfortable wearing ease.

A note about lycra for those who are new to sewing lingerie or swimwear: For the most part, fabrics labeled “lycra” by lingerie, swim or dance fabric shops are tricot and raschel knits made with nylon (sometimes polyester) with spandex for elasticity. The quality and weights of lingerie lycras will vary. Some of them will have a 4-way stretch, some 2-way. Sometimes suppliers may sell an uber-soft microfiber lycra, other times you’ll end up with something that looks more like shiny 80s swimsuit fabric. I try to read the descriptions carefully if there are any.


BASIC MATERIAL CHECKLIST


  • Fabric for cups and cradle
  • Lace for front of cups/cradle (optional)
  • Stretch fabric for band/back of the bra
  • Lining for cups/cradle or suitable interfacing (optional)
  • Hook and eye
  • Rings and sliders
  • Strap elastic
  • 3/8″ picot elastic for top of the band and armline
  • 1/2″-3/4″ plush picot elastic for the hemline
  • 1/4-3/8″ narrow picot elastic or trim for the top of the cup
  • Underwire channeling
  • Underwires (optional)
  • Bow/rosette trim for front (I like making my own!)

Other things you’ll need for the sew-along:

  • clear ruler or way to mark seam allowances
  • tracing paper
  • a kick-butt sharp pencil
  • some kind of heavier paper like cardstock for your final pattern
  • tailor’s chalk or washable fabric marker
  • stretch needles (70 or 75)
  • zig-zag foot
  • thread (at least one full spool)
  • a rotary cutter is very useful in bramaking but optional

ABOUT BRA KITS

With a lot of kits, you will need to order underwires separately. Be sure to read their descriptions. Also, many kits seem to be short on strap elastic, so consider ordering a bit extra. For my bras, I need about 45 inches of strap elastic and I have a short shoulder-to-bust length. The Bra-makers Supply kits assume you are making the fabric strap in their patterns so they really don’t include much strap elastic at all.

I’ve used kits from Merckwaerdigh, Elingeria, Bra-makers Supply and FabricDepotCo. By far the best bang for my dollar was the FabricDepot kit (#KE645-S, which is designed to supply the Elan pattern but is good for most bras). It had some very nice lycra, plenty of elastic and included the underwires. Note that Merckwaerdigh and Elingeria kits are often entirely stretch fabrics so you will need linings of some sort.

These are just the ones I know about. If you haven’t by now, please check out Dixie DIY’s awesome Big Fat List of Bramaking Supplies for some ideas on where to source your supplies. (Dixie and I are fellow Austinites. Maybe someone should open a bramaking store here!)

Phew, I think that about does it. Feel free to ask questions!

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